RACINE — After a late start to the semester and the addition of additional early release days to relieve teachers, the Racine Unified School District is asking that some instructional requirements be waived.
At the end of the winter holidays earlier this month, COVID-19 cases were on the rise, with a dramatic rise in cases, prompting RUSD to delay welcoming students into the classroom. Starting Feb. 9, the district is to undergo a series of eight days of early release, as presented by RUSD Academic Director Soren Gajewski.
“The waiver must take into account the minutes of teaching lost during the two days following the winter break, and also take into account a series of early releases every two weeks, starting on February 9, until our early releases on Wednesdays to provide teachers, who have significantly missed their professional learning planning opportunities, to fulfill their professional responsibilities to improve the quality of the classroom experience,” said Gajewski.
Although the measure was eventually approved, board members Scott Cooey and Ally Docksey expressed concerns about whether teachers would really be allowed to use the time they need rather than having it ‘infringed’ by the administration, while Docksey also questioned whether it would be worth the upheaval it would cause families.
People also read…
Superintendent Dr Eric Gallien assured the council that such a breach would not occur.
“There’s always a level of distrust when it comes to a situation like this,” Gallien said. “I’m going to show you what I told the administration to do, which is to give them that time. And when Mr. Gajewski talks to them, it’s to give them that time, and so we’re going to make sure that happens. If not, teachers should contact me directly.
While elementary students will always exceed the required number of instructional hours, according to RUSD spokesperson Stacy Tapp, middle and high school students will on average have about 5 hours less than the required time.
“These 3-hour early releases will give our educators time to catch up on any professional learning they may have missed because they were filling in or doing extra work,” Tapp said in an email. “It will also give them time to prepare teaching materials and lessons. Currently, educators often substitute and perform other additional duties during their normal prep time due to staffing issues.
Racine Educators United previously called for more serious COVID mitigation, including remote learning and the provision of N-95 masks, to protect students and staff from the faster-spreading omicron variant. The organization also decried the extra work falling on educators amid the pandemic.
But the organization’s president, Angelina Cruz, said the extra days of early release will help staff cope with the burden of the pandemic.
“Racine’s educators and parents all support in-person schooling, but only if we can be sure students are safe and learning,” Cruz said. “Educators can’t teach effectively if we don’t have time to prepare lessons, but we currently have little to no planning time as we cover staff who are sick or caring for their own family. Our district has recognized the extreme stress educators are under during this staffing crisis. Early release days will bring some relief so we can keep learning on the right path.